I turned the big Four-Oh on December 18 (1 week before Christmas) and I wanted to do something special. The downside to birthdays close to Christmas is not the gifts like everyone immediately assumes, it is the attention sink of Christmas. All time and energy are going toward the holiday and nobody has time or energy to do something ‘not’ Christmas that close. *Including me* I also love the magic of Christmas and love making it special for my family so I also had no real energy to plan a party for myself and Lars, wonderful in many ways, is not a planner (and then I got the flu so I’m glad there wasn’t a party planned).
One answer is to move my birthday celebration to a more dead spot on the calendar but that brings back the issue of planning a party for myself, that just feels odd. So my answer this year is to do ‘something special’ with my top 40 friends and family. The ‘rules’ are that it has to be for my birthday, not just that we happen to be out after an event and sharing a meal or something, social time is great but the intention for birthday is a key element. Also, no double counting, even if some of the same people are there they don’t count again. I like this system because while I have an odd internal issue with throwing a big party for myself, I have zero issues telling a friend “hey, lets go do a XYZ for my birthday” and personally planning the activity and date and they come and say ‘happy birthday!” and we go from there. I’m equally open to a friend inviting me to something for my birthday quest. This also gives me the freedom to celebrate my birthday with all my favorite people at times that work for each individual and I can see people from all over and include them in the birthday quest because my timeline is long.
So far the plan is working well and I’m excited to keep rolling with it.
My first celebration was the weekend before my birthday and the serious top people in my life attended. 1. Lars, 2. Vacation Mom 3, 4, and 5 were my kids. We had a great little dinner party in my beautiful front room with candles and the Christmas tree and a lovely lamb meal.
The second celebration included Lars again but featured our friends Lou and Lisa; for my 40 count, they are #6 and #7. We went to a very nice French restaurant that we had been to before. They had a crazy day with plumbing issues but I really appreciated that they came out per plan. (plus after their day they needed a glass of wine). Side bonus of this celebration was a fun kid party where #1 watched their kids who are very good friends with #2 and #3 so everyone was a winner.
The third celebration was in NY with my family. The restaurant was a comedy of errors but we all had a good time anyway. My BiL is in restaurant management so his running commentary of ALL the things they did wrong was hilarious. We common people notice some wrong things like a long wait or getting the wrong check but he noticed dozens of little things. I think he (semi) secretly reveled in their ineptitude because the owner is someone he is not a big fan of. For my count; I add my parents, #8,#9 without whom my birthday would not have ever happened. My two sisters #10, #11 who I wish I lived closer to but maybe someday … and their husbands who are cool enough guys to count as friends/family and are #12 and #13.
#14 is a high school friend who I have a fun relationship with basically centered around phone games and technology. He also shares his working life in NYC and I share my mellow country life with him. It is fun to have someone in your life for basically 30 years. We did a perfect for us birthday event; we went and played the Wizards Unite phone game from 10pm to midnight. Lars and my mom came too (but don’t count per the rules) but having a team of 4 playing together was truly fun.
#15 is on reserve for Miss Math. We were both sick and she did actually come visit but we did not have birthday intentions. We had planned on going out but neither of us was up for it SO she has a reserved spot because she BELONGS in my top 40 and whether we get together in the spring if she can visit or maybe we can watch a movie or read the same book in our respective houses and then talk about it we will figure it out. Miss Math is one of my oldest friends and we have talked basically every week (or more frequently) for 30 years.
**no photo because we used our time to chat and blow our noses**
#16 is my designer friend who drove up from NJ to see us. She arrived with a bottle of champaign to celebrate 40 and we did the visit thing. Seeing her is always fun, she is full of energy and creative ideas and I always want to do something more after we visit. We have pretty different lives now but there is still plenty of common ground and I’m glad she made the drive.
Not bad for having the flu on my real birthday. So! friends of mine, let’s do something for my 40th birthday! I’m open to most things, the gift of your time is all I ask, and this is going to be a fun challenge for the year. Someone asked if I know 40 people and my answer is “Absolutely” I’ve been really lucky to consistently meet awesome people over my 40 years and I’m pretty good at keeping in touch so I still have friends I’m in contact with from elementary school, middle/high school, college, my first job in MN, SCA over a lifetime in 3 kingdoms plus the international event of Pennsic, recent friends made through kids, PTO, school board and other causes. I would likewise count some internet friends because some of my online-only relationships are pretty fabulous and have persisted for years. Maybe I’ll make it part of my quest to have a birthday event with someone from every category in my life…. let’s make that a stretch goal. Regardless every one will get documented here and I hope to have the best epic odyssey of a 40th year.
*Honorable mention for the list has to go to my Ny friend, who also reads this, who I ended up sitting next to in church on Christmas Eve. Given we were there for Jesus’s birthday it certainly couldn’t be for my birthday but it was such a great extra for my visit it had to have a mention. Sometimes you work hard to have plans fall through, sometimes you have a friend land in the seat next to you unexpectedly. I have known her since 1st grade so if we can make a birthday thing work then I could get that fairly rare category because my class was only 11 kids.
I missed recording a few things in my crazy little life here.
Most importantly; #2 is now 9! As we say ‘It’s time for 9″. She claims she had to wait FOREVER for her birthday and all her friends are older, however, given the number of birthday parties we have attended for her friends this month, she was born peak season. We did another sleepover with a fun painting project to pass the time. All the girls did great with everything and eventually went to sleep. The party was on a Friday night to have a prayer of fitting into graduation/recital season and we actually had everyone attend and the bonus was we still had the weekend. On her real birthday, we had lunch together at school and she skipped jujitsu to hang out with me and then we went for sushi. It was a full day and I think she enjoyed it.
Speaking of parties – in the past 2 weeks, we have had 4 kid birthday parties, a house warming, a bridging ceremony, a graduation, and 2 grad parties that we got to. It has been an intensely social couple of weeks. Most of these were in succession, going from one to the next to the next. A few were concurrent where we dropped a kid at a birthday and went to another celebration and back in time to pick up again. Exhausting but exciting and fun to see so many friends achieving things in their worlds.
The weather… has been a factor in all things. Currently, it is raining, again. Yesterday it was perfect. That is the way, we get a couple gorgeous days and a couple soggy days. I have two lists at all times; things to do outside and things to do inside. It also has been mild to cool here still. I know other places are melting already but we are still using layers. I wonder if I can ever put away all the winter?
Remember when I said I was doing a lot of field trips this month? This past week I went on a 3 day trip ‘up north’ with the 5th grade. It was thoroughly educational and the staff at the place was incredibly good with kids and making science exciting. Every activity had a running dialogue of history and science and social interactions that was like sneaking veggies into a cookie. We spent tons of time in the woods, in the ponds looking at micro-organisms, and even some classroom time. They have a magic formula going up there I’m glad to have participated in. It was worth the time, however, three days away still has a price in things NOT done elsewhere and it was also not exactly relaxing keeping track of 130 kids.
We also got a new minivan. This was a process that spanned about 4 months but we finally got it this Saturday. It is still a little amazing to be in, so new and full of tech to learn. We decided on the Pacifica – great safety and stats – but we needed one that had 6 seats in the back. That turned out to be a special order but it was worth the wait because since we were factory ordering we could get or leave out any option we wanted so no compromises because it was ‘on the lot’. I listed our Oddysey and hope it sells to a nice person. That will be its own post someday because it truly was a good car. We have always done a trade in so it is odd to still have our old car too.
Between parties and rain storms, we have gotten more of the play set up, I added monkey bars and then a flip bar that is both fun and helps keep the system stable. The kids are enjoying it both for its built purpose of swing/monkey bar/flip and also as a centerpiece of imagination games that I can’t even start to describe. Let’s just say my 3 have no shortage of crazy imagination scenarios that they can play all day. This set lures them out of the house. There is still a list of building projects not to mention yard work in general. We did get our yard mowed. Note I didn’t say grass…. we are waiting on the builders to finish some drainage fixes so we didn’t plant yet, however, plenty of volunteer green items were filling the void and we mowed them to a socially acceptable level. Next year we might have grass… maybe.
Sports were dominant this month with #1 doing track and #2 doing softball and #3 doing gymnastics and they were all stacked on Monday and Tuesday making them crazy afternoons. We survived though, the last track meet was Monday and #1 did very well. She was 3rd overall for the 800m and had fun on all her events. Everyone got t-shirts and ribbons and I got to see parent friends from all over I wasn’t expecting. Now we ‘just’ have softball and gymnastics (and jujitsu) but the schedule is much less crazy.
Last but not least, I looked and there are less 2 weeks of school left. This year flew by but we did do quite a lot so we earned our summer. The next 2 weeks are full of end of year things, a final field trip, #2 has a wax museum presentation that parents are invited to, and I need to do one last birthday party.
I’m closing in on 1000 words here so that is plenty to read with your coffee, I will keep ‘blogging’ on my list for inside time and hopefully, I get back to a bit more regular schedule when things click over to summer life.
ps. while uploading pictures I was reminded that I also went to school for their field day, a 5th-grade concert that was actually really good, we dealt with our first major behavior in school issue, we attended the agriculture fair at the high school and got to pet the baby goats and I helped a friend rehab and stage his house to sell – reminding me I don’t really like packing but packing someone else is more fun. Now I don’t feel so bad about the basket of towels that just never seems to get folded.
My first daughter is officially 11. Last year birthday stuff got absolutely lost in the ‘magic’ of moving. Each had a party, each was celebrated, none got a proper blog post and we never did do our adult friend/family party (people that would be invited to all 3). This year we are in a much better place to pay proper attention but this time I hesitate to write a full-on letter publically to #1 because other things have changed.
- She is pretty good about me sharing stuff but she is also shy about somethings so like all internet parents I need to make some boundaries
- I am a bit more of a public figure, not that school board is the same as president however my name is more out there locally and the kids don’t need the extra microscope on them
- There was a really scary local thing where a man spotted a kid getting off the bus and decided he would kidnap her. They had no relation otherwise, he just saw her one day. He broke into her house a couple weeks later, shot her parents, kidnapped her and there was a multi-week search and most had given up. She rescued herself in the end, she was locked in a room but figured out when he was gone and got out and made it to a road and got help. She is ok as can be expected but the safety we all feel is a little less secure. Not that *not* blogging about my kids could have prevented something like that, however, less info as the world gets smaller is probably better.
On the other side of the coin, this is my record of what we do and how I see the world. The title reflects that – I have been a mother for 11 years. It has been a really interesting 11 at that, I’ve learned, made mistakes, apologized to nearly everyone in the world for something I felt I did badly, let go of some notions, adopted others and generally aged a decade in the process.
For this birthday we had the good fortune that it was on a Sunday so I let her sleep in and we did a nice breakfast followed by picking out a bike from the shop (to be delivered next week) and picking up a friend for a rock climbing adventure. We had a little time at our house while I cooked the pie that needed hours to chill and the girls decided to have some impromptu sewing time. They made a pretty reasonable elephant pillow with minimal supervision. 11 is really good like that, the basic sewing machine set up and a 2-minute lesson of ‘follow the line and go slow’ and they were good.
Rock climbing was a blast. The place is just far enough away that we won’t do it often but it is a great thing to try. They have harnesses that are super safe for solo climbing and give just enough upwards pressure that I had no problem with the climbs beyond figuring out where to put my hands. I’m very glad I work out though, however, I wish I had my 6-year-olds weight to strength ratio. She was like a spider on the wall and even did the free climb.
Yesterday I spent from 11:30 on at school or with the birthday girl. I did lunch with each daughter and then took #1 out for our mother-daughter afternoon. We got a pedicure and then found pants that fit her. The day was shorter than other years because I still had to pick up her sisters but we had a nice time. The day was capped off by her getting a home visit from our SCA queen and she was given an award of arms, normally an adult award but she has earned it over the past few years doing pretty much everything she was allowed to help the group. It was a pretty special night overall. Not bad for an 11-year-old.
This weekend we will have a friend party and I have no idea how many kids are coming. A bunch. 20 were invited. I’ll just make a lot of pizza rolls and stay out of the way. They are taking on some of the planning so I’ll be hopefully a support system instead of a cruise director.
Otherwise, I did exciting things like meet with our tax guy. Next for me is party prep and that is mostly cleaning because that is NOT in this particular 11-year-olds wheelhouse…
Three days of summer completed, only 137 to go.
Mostly good so far, we had plans and they kept us busy and I think we are getting used to being around each other 24/7. It has only been the equivalent of a long weekend so I’ll re-evaluate when we get to a week. I’m even preplanning next week, whole days in advance.
So far we have;
Celebrated the first day with a fire and friends and a toast to the summer to come
Had friends over, most notable was a Fiona friend whose birthday we will miss and she missed Fiona’s so we did an un-birthday playdate. Nothing makes a little girl feel special like a personal sized cake. (the pans are from Ikea in the kid section, get them!)
Gone to a friends house, rode bikes around the block and played in the yard, traumatizing the many robins who are nesting.
Procured a summer wardrobe for 3 girls since all their summer stuff is deeeeep in storage (remember originally we were supposed to move in April). We lost shopping patience so I have 2 pairs of shorts beyond the workout bottoms I had kept out. I ended up modifying a t-shirt to be more trendy (and less annoying at the neck).
We are reading more but not getting much other ‘school’ stuff done but it has been a busy few days.
Gone to the gym 2x and the pool once – I’m very hopeful to continue this trend since I’ll get both a kid break and a workout.
Today Lars is taking the girls out and I’m getting all the winter stuff out to storage and starting in on all the decorative things we kept out simply to make the house look good for showing. Yes, I do like how it looks too in a hotel sort of way, but in the interest of getting packed in a non-panic I’ll start round 3 with the less essential items.
We even got in a date night! For the first time in WEEKS Lars and I had an evening with no plans and our sitter was ready and willing so we went out to eat together. This isn’t to say we don’t see each other – about half the time we go to different things in the evening but are back by 8ish and do kid bedtime and then have the evening together, just taking the whole night is special.
Given that it is a holiday weekend it double downs on different from a school week with a day trip on Monday. Zoe already said she has no idea what day it is and might just consider all days between now and school Saturday. Why not?
No real drama yet and I’m glad. We have so many things cooking that I think we will exhaust ourselves – I should really put ‘relaxing’ on the list at some point.
ps. I got my side by side done for the kids, here is beginning of the year and end
I’m now a whole year older but you want to know something funny, I’ve accidentally been telling people I was 38 for months because somehow in the birthday blitz of the summer where every other person in my house has a birthday, I just gave myself an honorary year. So, I feel younger today, I get to re-do 6 months of 38. This error in memory was found by a friend who is a Feb birthday in the same year and he insisted that he was 38 so I was 37 and I was pretty sure he was wrong because he just had a baby (really the wife, but, team effort of not sleeping) but nope, he was right.
Most years I have a ton of fun planned for the day. With a birthday a week before Christmas, if you don’t make your own fun, it gets lost in the holiday crazy. This year I just didn’t have plans. The universe was helping me out because last night Fiona was up at 3am with a runny nose that kept her awake and the school nurse called about 10 min after school started so she is home with me. Really, my plan for the day was to do the normal Monday and maybe go to the gym so having a Fiona just means I will schedule in some extra snuggle time instead of a workout.
I did benefit from older children today though. I remember birthdays when they were little that they didn’t know and/or care that it was ‘my’ day, they still wanted their mom 110%. Today my oldest woke up early and made me breakfast brownies. Opening your door to the scent of brownies is a beautiful thing. They also succeeded in keeping a big gift secret from me. That would have never been possible in the past and this morning I got to open an actual surprise birthday gift of an Apple watch. Perfect timing because my Fitbit has broken for the final time…
The day is going to be full of relaxing, finishing a few little projects, and reading all the nice birthday notes from facebook (and my normal Monday laundry, need clean Gis for JuJitsu)
When we started this semi-impulsive move I looked ahead and saw that there were absolutely 2 birthday’s that would be quite in the thick of things and decided I HAD to give myself a break from doing ‘too much’ for the birthdays. However, Fiona and Zoe’s birthday shouldn’t really suffer too much from our move so I tried to find a compromise. Here is what I did.
#1. Since their birthdays are just 2 weeks apart, we found a weekend (the only free weekend day) in between and put their party on ONE day.
#2. We decided to use our new YMCA as the venue since they offered decent party packages and did have our date available so in a nod to the two kids, we actually booked 2 parties
- Zoe turning 7 had more options based on age so we booked her a 3 hour party that included 1h of swimming, 1h of the bounce house, and 1h in the party room.
- Fiona turning 5 had fewer options and to stagger the starts we just booked her a 2 hour party with 1h in the bounce house and 1h in the party room.
- The staggered start meant we could greet each party of kids independently and they moved together as a group and we finished all together in the party room for 2 cakes.
#3. I gave myself a ‘pass’ on making all my decorations and running around to 3 different stores went to Oriental Trading and just clicked around until I had a party in a box. *because of my ongoing relationship with them, Oriental Trading treated me to this build your own birthday party in a box and in return I’m telling you all about it!
- The girls agreed on the emoji theme and that is pretty in right now so it was an easy enough shopping trip. There is even an emoji category at Oriental Trading in the party theme section. I had to cover the standards;
- Table wear; plates, cups, napkins
- treat bag and filling
- some decor to fill up the impersonal (yet nice) room
- a craft to have something to do while food is served etc
I had to be a little creative in some ways and in others there was a super obvious and easy choice but here is the party fresh out of the shipping box (a box I have reused and packed a bunch of family pictures in);
The EASY part was treat bag! First I saw the cellophane bags (bottom right) and then I found the face bag (top right) and I just got both. I hedged my bets about size and quality and in the end I actually used both. The face bags have a narrow top but are otherwise really cute and easy to fill. I put Boom Chicka Pop, the most awesome popcorn, into the cellophane bags and that gave me some nice bulk. The other goodie bag fillings were also pretty easy to hunt up – the emoji stickers, stampers, and pins were all on the theme and good value.
Second most easy were the craft. There are emoji scratch off crafts front and center on the site. They really don’t create anything grand but kids really love scratching off the black to make the design and each packet comes complete for the craft so it was just hand one per kid and let them do what they do.
The Harder part was table wear. Napkins and cups, no problem. No easy options for plates? I searched emoji and smile and nada in the plate family but then I saw these ninja plates and figured they would work just fine. I ended up just using some leftover paper plates for the dinner plate so it was all fine and looked festive. **going back today for links I see they have a dinner plate now! Must have been sold out, but no cake plate so my ninja pick is still a good tip if you are doing an emoji them birthday**
The Hardest part was decor. I didn’t need balloons because filling a balloon you purchase elsewhere is nearly impossible so I just buy them here. In the end, I got the plain yellow pennant banner and my sharpie and I decorated while we watched some TV the night before. Let me tell you, a 200f banner is REALLY long. It did make the room look emoji theme with only 1 decoration so that is a big impact. I ended up cutting it so I had a big one on the wall and a small one to decorate the serving table.
Overall a party in a box + a venue I didn’t need to clean made it a very fun and pretty easy party. There were questions of service and organization on the part of the Y, but, I’m working on that. Let’s just say you can’t expect much from teen party assistants….
It is not a secret that Oriental Trading is an easy one stop party shop but now there is proof that in 20min of shopping and a few minutes of assembly you can have a nearly Pinterest worthy party with nearly no effort.
I’m not sure I’ll be stacking parties like this again, it was a whirlwind, but give the time we have it was the best we could do and everyone had a good time so that is what counts.